NBA AM: In Nene The Nuggets Are Trusting
The Denver Nuggets were one of the NBA’s biggest surprises last season. After trading franchise cornerstone Carmelo Anthony at the trade deadline most predicted the “starless” Nuggets would slowly fade from league relevancy.
The expected decline most projected surprisingly never occurred and in a strange twist of fate it was Anthony’s new team, the New York Knicks, which ended the regular season on a struggling note.
The Nuggets roared down the stretch of the regular season, clinching a postseason appearance and gave the fans of Denver hope for the future when the prospects appeared to be dim.
One of the biggest reasons for the Nuggets’ late season surge was the play of talented center Nene, who entered the offseason as an unrestricted free agent.
On Tuesday night, Denver officially agreed to terms with Nene on a reported five-year $67 million deal and in the same process allowed Nuggets fans and team management to breathe a sigh of relief.
“Extremely,” Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri told Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post in a telephone interview after the reported signing. “I think with all the momentum from last year, it’s tough to lose players because we’re trying to build this way a certain way. We need key players and Nene is a key player. He will be huge part of the Nuggets going forward.”
Over the past two weeks Nene was linked to Indiana, New Jersey and Houston as potential free agency destination as both franchises looked to solidify their respective frontcourts.
With the Nuggets’ roster entering training camp in a state of flux it became more apparent than ever the team needed Nene back in the fold.
Three players who were on the Nuggets’ roster last season, Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin, are currently playing in China and do not have opt out clauses in their deals and Arron Afflalo, a favorite of head coach George Karl, is a restricted free agent with whom the team has yet to come to terms.
By giving Nene the most lucrative free agency deal of 2011 the organization is making the statement the Brazilian-born center is going to be a centerpiece of how the team is constructed in the future.
Next On The Nuggets’ Radar – Arron Afflalo: Re-signing shooting guard Arron Afflalo will be the Nuggets’ next top priority. The four year veteran is coming off his best season as a professional in 2011 and boasts career numbers of 46 percent shooting from the floor, 41 percent from three-point range and over 80 percent accuracy from the free throw line.
Karl recently expressed how much Afflalo means to the Nuggets to the Denver Post.
If you look at last year, it was really weird. I couldn’t take Arron off the court. Even when we had Carmelo (Anthony) and Chauncey (Billups), Arron was this foundation of consistency at the basics of the game. As the season went on, I was amazed. I felt naked not having him on the court. Then when we changed the team, there was probably never a growth of unity because it happened so fast and we had a lot of wins. Arron was kind of that glue that made everything work and fit. I think (team executive) Masai (Ujiri) understands how important both Nene and Arron are to this team, but it is a business. We’ve just got to see where it goes.
Nets Still Pursuing Dwight Howard Deal? According to a report by Yahoo! Sports, trade discussions involving All-Star center Dwight Howard between the Orlando Magic and New Jersey Nets have picked up in recent days even though the star player has recently said he’s willing to remain in Orlando if ‘changes’ are made.
However, sources close to the organization believe the Magic are in no rush to deal Howard and are intent on convincing the Defensive Player of the Year his future is in Orlando.
In the rumored deal the Nets would likely offer a package containing center Brook Lopez and agree to take on the contract of forward Hedo Turkoglu, as well.
Boston Celtics High On Brandon Bass: The Boston Celtics’ window to win another championship with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen is closing by the day so it comes as no surprise the team has been active in the offseason trying to build depth for one more postseason push.
The Celtics recently acquired power forward Brandon Bass from the Orlando Magic in exchange for Glen Davis in a sign and trade.
Bass, who started 51 contests for the Magic last season, is held in high regard by Celtics head coach Doc Rivers who marvels at his continued development.
“I like his motor,’’ Rivers told Michael Vega of the Boston Globe. “I like his consistent elbow jump shot. I like the fact that we can lean on him at times, offensively. He’s an offensive player. I like his speed. I think you can see when he first got there with Stan [Van Gundy], he wasn’t known as a defender in Orlando. But by the time he left, he had become one and I think, basically, in my opinion the more Stan taught, the more you have to be a willing participant, and I thought he became that.’’
Bass, the No. 33 pick of the 2005 draft, averaged 11.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in a career year. He will be asked to take a reserve role behind Garnett, but has struggled when minutes weren’t available in the past.
With maturity Bass is ready to handle any role the Celtics have in store for him.
“In previous years, I came off the bench and I felt comfortable doing that,’’ Bass said. “Last year I began to start and that felt good too, but I can play in either role.’’
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